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Turbine boss blows back

The president of the company set to build four wind turbines east of Port Ryerse says opponents of the project already have their minds made up about wind power and won’t consider other points of view.

Uwe Sandner, president of UDI Renewables Corporation of Nanticoke told Norfolk County council on Tuesday night he blames the Internet where “all kinds” of one-sided information against turbines is available.

Sandner said he met opponents from the village and “tried to give them information, but in the end most of them didn’t want to listen. They believe it’s bad for your health and their property values will go down.”

The make of turbine going up near Port Ryerse is “the quietest machine on the market” because it has no gear-box and is also “the most environmentally friendly,” he told elected officials.

Under provincial law, companies looking to set up green energy projects go through Queen’s Park for approvals and municipalities have no power to stop them.

Sandner, however, appeared before council to give officials “information up front regarding the project” before an open house with the public is held Nov. 15 at the Port Dover Lions Centre.

Sandner, who lives in Nanticoke, said there is little opposition to turbines in his home country of Germany. It is, he noted, one-third the size of Ontario, far more densely populated, and has 25,000 wind turbines.

“You hear nothing about health problems in Germany,” Sandner said. “In Germany, people are more concerned about cell-phones and microwaves.”

Opposition to turbines instead comes from tourists, he said, who complain that they blight the views of churches hundreds of years old.

Elected officials nevertheless questioned him about the project.

Houghton Coun. Betty Chanyi raised the possibility the turbines would affect migrating birds and asked Sandner if he had contacted biologists and researchers.

“We will do everything we have to do to make this project not negatively impact the area,” said Sandner.

“We are introducing permanent structures into the area that is a major stopover for birds heading to the boreal forests and beyond,” replied Chanyi. “We can’t move them and get them out of the way once they get them here.”

Council has heard multiple complaints from residents who live next to a wind farm in the far west end of the county.

They insist the turbines have sickened them, and in some cases have forced them to move out of their homes, while sending their property values spiralling down.

In Port Ryerse, a group of residents have formed a committee opposed to the UDI project.

In an interview with the Reformer, committee member Larry Hoyt said he attended the meeting with Sandner and watched as opponents “threw” numerous questions about the impact of the project “at him that he couldn’t answer.”

Hoyt said one of his concerns is the democratic loss from the Ontario Green Energy Act, which “stripped municipalities of their power” to deal with projects like the one in Port Ryerse.

“It took away from citizens our right to have a voice,” said Hoyt. “We’ve been stripped of our democratic right.”